Tax Consideration Tips

Beneficial Tax Laws

American tax law offers a significant capital gains tax exemption that allows taxpaying homeowners to unlock home equity and end the spiraling cycle of "investing up." First-time buyers enjoy expanded rules for Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) and 401(k) plans, rules that allow penalty-free withdrawals to purchase a home.

Every two years, married sellers of principal residences who file joint federal income tax returns are allowed a $500,000 exclusion ($250,000 for singles) from capital gains tax. For sales that took place after May 6, 2003, the maximum capital gains tax rates for profits above the exclusion dropped from 20% to 15% for higher income taxpayers, and from 10% to 5% for lower income taxpayers. 

Homeowners can now consider several new options. People who find themselves at an empty-nester stage (no children at home) in a four or five bedroom home with a large equity have been able to unlock their equity dollars, using the income to help their children buy a first home, take a luxury cruise, remodel the house or purchase a second home for vacation or retirement.

Consult your tax advisor for advice regarding your particular circumstance.

Capital Gains Exemptions

Home sellers are always interested in their tax deduction options. If you recently sold a home without meeting the basic ownership and use criteria for waiving capital gains tax, you might still be able to claim reduced exemptions if you meet certain other criteria.

Homeowners who had to sell because of a change in place of employment can qualify for reduced tax. You must prove that the job change occurred while you owned and used the home as your primary residence, and that your new job is located at least 50 miles farther from your residence than your previous place of employment.

A reduced exclusion from capital gains tax may also be granted for health reasons. If your motivation for selling your house was to obtain diagnosis, treatment or cure for a disease or injury to you or a family member, you can apply for an exclusion. Unforeseen circumstances such as death, unemployment, divorce or natural disasters may also reduce your capital gains tax. Consult a tax professional for advice about your unique circumstance.

Moving And Taxes

Even with the changes in tax laws over recent years, you may be able to deduct some of the expenses of a move that is the result of a change in your job.

You will probably be able to deduct the costs of your move if your new work location means more than an additional 50-mile commute, if you move within a year of taking the job at the new location, and if you work full-time for at least 39 weeks (the total is 78 weeks if you are self-employed). You should keep meticulous records of all of your expenses and consult a tax expert to make sure that you take all the lawful tax deductions allowed by the IRS criteria for expenses related to selling your old home or buying your new one. The IRS publication No. 521 entitled "Tax Information on Moving Expenses" makes good reading before you make a move.

 

New 1031 Exchange Rules

One of the most popular "tax deferring" strategies for real estate owners who are selling one property and acquiring another is the use of Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code. It is an effective way to defer paying income tax on capital gain generated by the sale of a property when you intend to reinvest the proceeds in a similar, "like-kind" property. Almost any kind of real property is considered "like-kind" with any other real property.

A recently enacted law closes what was considered a loophole in the Section 1031 rules. In some cases, owners of investment real estate have used the 1031 Exchange to swap their investment property for real estate that could be readily converted to an owner-occupied residential property. After the exchange, they made the property into their principal residence, lived in it for a couple of years, then sold it. Now the American Job Creation Act of 2004 has ruled that properties converted from a 1031 exchange property into a residence must be held and used as a principal residence for at least five years to qualify for the tax exemption. Otherwise, the basic tax-deferring benefits of 1031 exchanges remain the same. 

Consult your tax advisor for more detailed information.

 

Not at ARMs Length

A sale of a house is just a sale, right? Not necessarily. If you are selling your house to your children or transferring title outside the open market, then the transaction may be characterized as "not at arm's length". Since such a transfer may have tax consequences, you should discuss it with a tax attorney or accountant before taking action.

The transfer of title to a son or daughter may cause the parents to lose favorable property tax treatment, require the payment of state gift taxes, or have other unexpected consequences. From a capital gains point of view, it may be more prudent for children to inherit property than to receive it as a gift. The disposition of any real estate should be considered within the entire framework of your tax and estate planning. 


For answers to all your real estate questions, consult experienced professionals who are familiar with this area.

Tax Breaks

Most homeowners are keenly aware of the interest tax deduction on their home loan, but there are many other tax breaks which are often overlooked at income tax time. Pro-rated property taxes and mortgage interest in the year of sale are deductible. You will find these amounts listed on your closing settlement statement. If you paid off your mortgage and had to pay a pre-payment penalty, it qualifies as tax deductible interest. If you paid an "acquisition mortgage loan fee" on a home loan, this fee can be deducted as itemized interest. Home improvement loan fees are also deductible. Any remaining loan fees from re-financed or paid-off mortgages are fully deductible at the time of the mortgage payoff.

Certain items don't qualify as deductions, but can be added to the cost basis of your home, such as transfer taxes, recording and title fees, and special local property tax assessments for new sidewalks, streets, or sewers.

Don't be intimidated by the tax code! A little research or consultation with an expert can help you maximize your real estate tax advantages.

Tax Deductions

Here is a question which is often asked about real estate sales: which home loan fees are deductible for income tax purposes? It is good to know the answer to this question before you sign on the dotted line. It may influence which loan you will choose. Loan fees for certain services are not itemized on your fee statement, but are grouped together into a single category.

The most obvious deductible fee is the loan fee paid to acquire a mortgage for a principal residence. The IRS recently ruled that the buyer could deduct the fee in the first year, even if the seller paid it! Other deductions include pro-rated property taxes and mortgage interest. On these items, the buyer may only deduct their share.

Most of the other closing costs are not deductible, but you may add them to your home's adjusted cost basis when calculating appreciation. Among these costs are appraisal, attorney, and inspection fees, as well as title, recording and notary fees. Fire insurance fees are neither deductible nor do they figure into the cost basis. If you are not sure which fees are deductible, consult a professional tax advisor.

 

Tax Implications of Selling Your House

Most of my clients profit from selling their homes, and they often have questions about capital gains tax. When you sell your primary residence, you are not taxed on your profit if (1) you have lived in the home for two out of the last five years and (2) your gain does not exceed $250,000 as a single taxpayer or $500,000 as a married couple filing jointly. Gains above these limits are taxed at the current rate of 15% for higher income taxpayers and 5% for lower income taxpayers. In 2008 the 15% rate will continue for higher income taxpayers; while the 5% lower income rate will drop to 0% for the 2008 tax year only. On January 1, 2009, the long-term capital gains tax rates will once again be 15% and 5% through 2010. Homeowners can use this tax-free provision every two years. As set forth in the American Job Creation Act of 2004, properties converted from a 1031 exchange property into a primary residence must be held and used as a primary residence for at least five years to qualify for the tax exemption. Consult your tax accountant for more detailed information regarding your particular circumstance.

Tax Reform

Owning a home still offers significant tax benefits. If you are renting, it may be a good time to sit down with a professional real estate agent to see how much you can save each year by owning your own home.

You save in two ways when you purchase a home. Even though most interest deductions have been phased out, home mortgage interest and state and local property taxes can be deducted. The interest on a home equity loan may also be deductible.

Your real estate agent can show you how these savings will apply in your situation. You may be pleasantly surprised when you compare the tax savings you will receive as a result of owning your home, and you will build up equity as your home appreciates in value! Also, first-time buyers will see expanded rules for Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) and 401(k) plans, allowing penalty-free withdrawals to purchase a home in the Taxpayer Relief Act passed in August, 1997. Consult your tax advisor for your particular circumstance.

Tax Rewards for Homeowners

The Federal Tax Code has significantly improved the American taxpayer's ability to profit by selling a principal residence. Prior to 1997, homeowners could take advantage of a tax benefit termed the "rollover", which granted exemption from capital gains taxes on the net profit from the sale of a home. Homeowners who used profits to purchase a bigger and better home did not have to pay tax. And homeowners over the age of 55 were given a once-in-a-lifetime exclusion from taxes on profits of up to $125,000 on the sale of their principal residence.

Compare those tax breaks with our current, streamlined and potentially more profitable arrangement that replaced both the rollover and the one-time exemption. If you are a married home-seller filing jointly, you may enjoy up to $500,000 in tax-free home sale profits, provided you have occupied the property as your principal residence during two of the last five years. Taxpayers who file singly get a $250,000 capital gains exclusion. Homeowners are eligible to exclude capital gains on the sale of a principal residence as often as once every two years.

The law allows capital gain exclusions whether you "buy up" to a more expensive home or "buy down" to a less expensive one. The tax-free dollars can be used in any way you want. Consult your tax advisor for detailed advice about your particular circumstance.

Tax Rewards for Homeowners

The Federal Tax Code has significantly improved the American taxpayer's ability to profit by selling a principal residence. Prior to 1997, homeowners could take advantage of a tax benefit termed the "rollover", which granted exemption from capital gains taxes on the net profit from the sale of a home. Homeowners who used profits to purchase a bigger and better home did not have to pay tax. And homeowners over the age of 55 were given a once-in-a-lifetime exclusion from taxes on profits of up to $125,000 on the sale of their principal residence.

Compare those tax breaks with our current, streamlined and potentially more profitable arrangement that replaced both the rollover and the one-time exemption. If you are a married home-seller filing jointly, you may enjoy up to $500,000 in tax-free home sale profits, provided you have occupied the property as your principal residence during two of the last five years. Taxpayers who file singly get a $250,000 capital gains exclusion. Homeowners are eligible to exclude capital gains on the sale of a principal residence as often as once every two years.

The law allows capital gain exclusions whether you "buy up" to a more expensive home or "buy down" to a less expensive one. The tax-free dollars can be used in any way you want. Consult your tax advisor for detailed advice about your particular circumstance.

Taxable Profits

If you are thinking of selling your home and your house has risen in value since you purchased it, or you have accumulated a lot of deferred profit from previous sales, the Taxpayer Relief Act passed in 1997 could be of tremendous value.

Prior to this law, when a homeowner moved to a smaller home, relocated to a less costly area, or made a decision to rent, they were left with unfavorable tax consequences. The old tax law allowed people who sold their homes to defer tax on any profit by buying a replacement home of at least equal value within two years. At age 55, they could permanently escape tax on up to $125,000 of profit, but any profit in excess of that amount was taxable unless a new home was bought. 

The good news is that with homes sold after May 6, 1997, homeowners can make as much as $500,000 tax-free profits on the sale of a principal residence for joint filers or $250,000 for single filers. The $500,000 capital gains exclusion removed taxes as a consideration for most home sellers by giving them flexibility to trade up or down. It has also allowed homeowners to preserve the savings value of a home when they sell, provided they use the property as their principal residence for two of the prior five years prior to the sale.


Consult your tax advisor for your particular circumstance.

Taxpayer Relief

Legislation included in the 1997 federal budget made significant changes that improve a homeowner's ability to profit from the sale of real estate. The capital gains tax exclusions on the sale of a principal residence is just one of several benefits for homeowners. When you sell a home you have owned and use for two of the five years prior to the sale, married couples are allowed to keep up to $500,000 in tax-free profits and taxpayers filing as singles can keep up to $250,000 before paying capital gains tax. 

Long-term capital gain is also taxed at lower rates as a result of the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act passed in 2003. The maximum capital gains tax rates dropped from 20% to 15% and from 10% to 5%, effective for sales and exchanges taking place on or after May 6, 2003 and through December 31, 2007. In 2008 the 15% rate continues for higher income taxpayers, while the 5% rate for lower income taxpayers drops to 0%, but only for the 2008 tax year. On January 1, 2009, the 10% and 20% rates will be reinstated. 

Consult your tax advisor for advice regarding your particular circumstance.

 

Your Principal Residence

The Federal Tax Code allows married taxpayers to exclude from capital gains taxes up to $500,000 in profits from selling a home (singles can exclude $250,000). In order to qualify for this exemption, you must prove that that the home has been your principal residence for at least two out of the last five years. The establishment of the home as a principal residence depends on the facts of each homeowner's circumstance. Here are two cases to consider. 

Homeowner A has lived at 25 Pine Drive for 12 years. Although he stays at his vacation cottage in another town for up to three months out of each year (sometimes more), 25 Pine Drive is his principal residence, where he lives most of the time. When he sells the home, Homeowner A (filing as a single individual) can keep up to $250,000 in tax-free profit. 

Homeowner B buys 108 Maple Street, intending to live there. He rents it out while waiting to sell his current home, where he has lived for six years. His principal residence sells at the end of two years. Homeowner B moves into his new house, lives there for three months, and then decides to travel. After a six-month trip, he regrets buying 108 Maple Street and sells it. Even though he has owned the house on Maple Street for over two years, it won't qualify as "owner-occupied", because he only lived in it for a few months. Thus Homeowner B is not eligible to claim the tax exemption when he sells the house on Maple Street.=

Consult your tax advisor for advice about your particular circumstance.

Your Tax Free Profits

Significant tax reform legislation was signed into law with the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997. This legislation replaced both the one-time $125,000 tax-free exclusion for homeowners aged 55 and older, and the "rollover" deferment of capital gains tax requiring the purchase of a replacement home of higher or equal cost within two years of the sale of your principal residence. 

With this change, a married couple filing their taxes jointly pays capital gains taxes only on that portion of home sales profits that exceeds $500,000. Single taxpayers, heads of households, and married persons filing separately may exclude up to $250,000. The exclusion is available for all sales of homes that occurred on or after May 6, 1997. Homeowners can use this tax-free provision every two years. 

You are allowed to keep these tax-free profits only if you have owned and used the home as your principal residence for two out of the five years prior to the sale of the property. Although the regulations do not require continuous occupancy, the IRS specifies that your principal residence must be the home you use for the majority of time during the year. Consult your tax advisor about your personal circumstance.
Shirl A Thornton
Shirl A Thornton
Real Estate Professional